This year’s ballot includes five state constitutional amendments and
three county charter amendments. Without exception, they’re complex and
confusing. To save you time, effort and heartache, we’ve compiled a
brief summary of each and our explanation of how we’ll vote on them:
State of Hawai`i Constitutional Amendments
1. Modify the appointment process for the Board of Regents
Right now it’s up to our governor alone to fill any vacancies in the
University of Hawaii Board of Regents. She (or he, should the case
arise) simply uses her own criteria whenever it comes time to put
someone new on the panel. If this amendment passes, it will create a
new Candidate Advisory Council which will give the governor “a pool of
qualified candidates” from which to choose. Republicans say this will
diminish our governor’s powers, which is exactly why we should do this.
When left alone, a governor has the potential to botch these types of
nominations, whether by installing a crony or just picking a fool.
Remember the Bev Hardin fiasco? Regardless of whether Lingle’s governor
or not, it does no real harm to provide outside expertise and advice to
UH Regent nominations.
2. Establishment of a Salary Commission
Always beware of political officials or lobbyists who want to make
government more efficient—government should be slow, plodding and
inefficient. It’s not a business, it’s a provider of social services
and security, all paid for by taxpayer dollars. Anyway, this amendment
would consolidate the state’s three salary commissions (executive,
legislative and judicial) into one super commission. Were we drowning
in reports that having three salary commissions instead of one was
bringing the state to its knees, I’d say we should take a look at this.
But we’re not, so we shouldn’t.
3. Remove the mandatory retirement age for state justices and judges
Finally, an easy one. As it stands, all state judges have to leave
the bench when they reach the age of 70. This is called “age
discrimination,” and it’s dumb, especially in a time when life
expectancy has stretched to nearly 80 years. In the U.S. as a whole, 29
states—more than half!—have no mandatory retirement age. The federal
judiciary, which includes the U.S. Supreme Court, also has no
retirement age. If we’re not forcing duffers from the highest court in
the land, why should we in Hawai`i?
4. Sexual assault against minors
What happened, did Nancy Grace write this one? This amendment would
remove the provision that jury verdicts must be unanimous in deciding
which three incidents constitute a “continuing course of conduct in
continuous sex assault crimes against minors younger than fourteen
years of age.” This is really nefarious—clearly, in their zeal to
punish people for the heinous crime of continually raping children, the
drafters have slashed one of the basic guarantees of due process—a
requirement that juries be unanimous in all of their decisions. And
that’s as slippery a slope as they come. By the way, if this sounds
familiar, it’s because it was on the ballot two years ago, passed
overwhelmingly and was then overturned by the courts.
5. Issue bonds for agricultural enterprises
Is it really necessary for the state to hand out tax-free bonds to
“agricultural enterprises”—read: agribusiness—in addition to industrial
enterprises, public utilities, healthcare facilities, early childhood
education facilities, affordable housing programs and non-profit
schools? I don’t think so.
County of Maui Charter Amendments
1. Split the Department of Public Works and Environmental Management into two departments?
I guess this is okay. Public Works would deal with county roads,
housing ordinances, proposed subdivisions and flood control while
Environmental Management would take care of waste management, sewers
and such. Plus, it’ll really boost the local business card industry. If
it doesn’t work, we can always mash the two together again.
2. Transfer at least two percent of county property tax revenues into a special affordable housing fund?
Just like the current Open Space Fund, this would set aside revenue
for affordable housing. It would use only existing county monies and
not require an increase in taxes. Of the money in the fund, fully 97
percent must go towards setting up actual housing, with no more than
three percent available for “administrative expenses.” The real
question here is why it took so long for this to come about.
3. Change the filing time for personal injury claims against the county?
If this passes, people will have just six months to file personal
injury claims against the county instead of the current two years. If
anything, citizens should have more time to file claims against the